Tuesday, March 24, 2009

One Surreptitious Pie

from A Message from the Wanderer
By William Stafford

Today outside your prison I stand
and rattle my walking stick: Prisoners, listen;
you have relatives outside. And there are
thousands of ways to escape.

Years ago, I bent my skill to keep
my cell locked. I had chains smuggled to me
in pies, and shouted my plans to the jailers;
but always, new plans would occur to me,
or the new heavy locks bent the hinges off,
or some stupid jailer would forget
and leave the keys. ...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Nine Fierce Herbs

from Charm of the Nine Healing Herbs

...On stone in crags
You grow Stime
Fierce you are
You beat back pain
You fight all venoms
So fierce you're called
The grass that defeats the snake

...
Wergulu
Wergulu
A seal bore you up
Over the sea's high ridge
You heal all evil brought
By the nine wicked spirits
You stand strong against pain
You beat down poison
Fierce against the three and the thirty
You broke the demon's claw
You hold off the wicked glance
You break the harmful spells
Of every wicked thing

...
These nine healing herbs
Fight the nine laming demons
And the nine evil poisons
And the nine flying ills
They fight the red poison
The white poison and the purple
They fight the yellow poison
And the green poison
The black poison and the blue
And the brown poison
And the crimson

They fight the worm-boil
And the water-blister
The thorn-blister and thistle-swell
They fight the ice-blister
And swollen bite

...
Only I know the power
Of the stream that clears
And the nine slithering ones know it

Now all the fields bloom
Full of healing herbs
When I blow these ills away
The very salt of the sea disappears
And the waters clear forever


~Anonymous, translated by David Cloutier

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

One Young Rain


Sunflower
By Rolf Jacobsen

What sower walked over earth,
which hands sowed
our inward seeds of fire?
They went out from his fists like rainbow curves
to frozen earth, young loam, hot sand,
they will sleep there
greedily, and drink up our lives
and explode it into pieces
for the sake of a sunflower that you haven't seen
or a thistle head or a chrysanthemum.

Let the young rain of tears come.
Let the calm hands of grief come.
It's not all as evil as you think.


~Translated by Robert Bly

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

One Deaf Language

Often enough I tried language, often enough I tried song, but they didn't hear you.

--Friedrich Hölderlin